Resurrecting and Uplifting Our Children's Hearts
Excerpted from the book Becoming a Parent of True Love
May 1, 1998
When Kim or I reprimand our children, the most important task we have afterwards is to resurrect their heart and feeling.
Tymon, Gracie, Ranin and Tadin (who is still just a baby, at the time of this writing) have sensitive little hearts that can get entirely crushed by a harsh word or a scowl. When we scold them, their feelings become miserable. Their faces droop. Tears well up in their little eyes, and they feel like their world has collapsed around them.
Perhaps they have been quite bad, and need to be chastised. After we lead them through the arduous process of telling them what they did wrong, helping them to understand that it was wrong, and guiding them to apologize for their misdeeds, we are then faced with the fact that they still feel miserable.
Sometimes parents will ignore the last step.
They will scold. The children will weep, and clean up their mess. The children will say sorry.
And the parents will forget to forgive their children. Instead, they may mention the children's misdeeds again and again, for the rest of the day, the week, or longer. The children are paying over and over again for the same mistake.
Gradually the children's feeling of repentance will change to resentment. Haven't we felt the same way? We will offend someone, and then apologize. The person we offended will keep bringing it up again and again, until finally we say, "I said I was sorry, didn't I?" We will get angry in return, and wonder why the other person can't accept our apology. Our relationship of heart with that person will be damaged.
I believe that we must try to be rigorously fair with our children. At the same time, if we can't forgive them, aren't we in need of repair ourselves?
If my son, Ranin, does something wrong, I scold him. Sometimes the scolding is hardly a scolding, but rather an educational process of informing him that, "by the way, you shouldn't take off your diaper by yourself because you're a little bit too young to do that -- but thanks for trying."
He doesn't need a scolding in this case. He needs to be educated. After educating him about a certain point, he then may do the same thing again. Scolding may be more in order the second time. Or the third time. Or the fifty-ninth time. But not necessarily the first time.
Each time he makes a mistake, he may be reprimanded, or made to go to his room, or whatever is appropriate. Each time he is scolded, he is sorry. Each time, he has apologized for that particular transgression.
If a child has apologized, why should his parent hold anything against him? If more punishment needs to be levied, then let it be levied. If he needs to say "sorry" again, let him say it. But when his heart is sincerely repentful, shouldn't the parent let go of his or her frustration or anger about the transgression? Shouldn't the parent forgive the child? When I thought about this, I realized that each time my children did something wrong it was a new and different incident. I needed to allow my children to make a fresh start each time. We ourselves want people to have faith in us. We want people to believe that we will always try to do the right thing. If we apologize to someone, we want them to accept it, forgive us, and believe in us from that point forward.
Our children are the same. They need our forgiveness, our faith, and our belief in them.
When my son Ranin apologizes, I go to him and hug him and kiss his cheek, and say, "That's all right, Ranin. Thank you so much for saying sorry."
I then follow up by expressing warmth to him for the next few moments, and reestablishing the conviction in his mind that his Daddy loves him and thinks that he is the most wonderful Ranin in the whole world.
In my mind, the transgression is forgotten. He has apologized. It's over and done with. It's no longer an issue. I have forgiven him completely. Now it's important to resurrect his heart, and reestablish the warmth of a relationship of heart. I can do that by admiring some other facet of his personality or behavior that has nothing to do with his previous mistake. In that way, his mistake is forgotten.
I don't need to mention his mistake again. His heart has been resurrected. My heart has been soothed by his apology. Our hearts are fresh and clean. Together, we are reestablishing a normal heartistic relationship.
When Ranin has the opportunity next time to commit the same mistake, he will be more moved by the memory of love from his parents than the memory of his scolding. Love will give him the power to avoid the mistake.
In this way, we can teach our children to "live without law". I believe that if we imbue our children with the desire to create relationships of heart with every person that they meet, they will have little trouble avoiding crime. They will have a strong desire to bring joy to the other person, and will feel pain if they cause anyone suffering. From this point of view, the way that parents raise their children is a major factor in the reduction of crime in our society.